Sunday, October 16, 2011

Whatever ...

Is there anything that sets your teeth on edge more than your child saying that one popular word of dismissal: Whatever!?

Whatever is your child's way of saying, well forget you. Or some such other message. It's guaranteed to start the slow (or fast) burn. It's not the end of the conversation, no matter how scornfully and dismissively they say it. It's the beginning ... of a fight.

Earbaby has many magnificent qualities. But one not so magnificent is her need to always have the last word. This actually isn't a new annoyance. It probably started when she was five, but as she's matured and become even more articulate, she has also become more obstinate. In a verbal battle, she always thinks she's going to win. But this is one fight I won't give up. I'm 42 years older, better educated (for now) and much better read. I have a lot more words in my arsenal, and I'm not afraid to use them. And my ultimate weapon? Well, I'm the mom. What I say goes.

But we are raising a generation of children who think their parents are their peers. When we were younger there were no shows on television like Supernanny or Nanny 911. Our parents were our parents. "Because I said so'' was enough of a reason for them. (It still works when you just don't feel like arguing any more.)

Now, parents want to be best friends with their kids. They want the unconditional love they give to be returned in kind. They don't want their kids mad at them. Ever. So people like Jo Frost must come in and inject common sense into people frightened by their own toddlers.

As these toddlers get older, and more verbal, even the good ones, the ones who don't require outsiders to come in to right the ship, start to push back. These children want what they want when they want it. And too much is never enough. We were like that. The difference is our parents didn't give in. No wasn't a dirty word. And you didn't give any lip. If you rolled your eyes, you had better be out of sight. That kind of disrespect would have earned you a good old-fashioned smack upside the head.

Now I'm not advocating the return of physical punishment, as tempting as it is. But there is a lot to be said about not allowing disrespect. And the word whatever, is disrespectful. And they mean it to be.

Every disagreement ends in whatever. Which makes me more insane than my normal, everyday crazy. Want to start a fight? When you are asked to do something, say, in that preteen, sneering, dismissive tone, "whatever."

Whatever is short for I don't care what you said, I'm going to do what I want. Your opinion is stupid. You're stupid. This conversation is over and I've stopped listening. Go away mom (or dad), you bother me. And I'm going to get the last word in to boot.

Like I said, it's the beginning of let's have a big knockdown, dragged-out fight with lots of ranting, raving and crazy threats and taking away of privileges. At least that's what it translates to in my house.

You know how with your spouse there are things each of you do to push the other one's buttons? I call those phrases like "you have too much junk, why don't you throw something away?" or anything negative about your family, or your in-laws, short form for "let's have a big, knockdown dragged-out fight today." Because that's what ends up happening.

I have banned the use of whatever as a single word phrase from Earbaby. A whatever is responded to with "Excuse me?" thereby giving her a chance to retract the eye-rolling, dismissive sighing and moaning and offensive word before mom escalates (rather quickly sometimes too) to a raving lunatic. All I know is when I hear the word "whatever," it had better be quickly followed by "you say, mom."

That just may save a life.

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